Outdoor Safety Must-Have: The Survival Blanket

A hiker on a mountainside wrapped in a survival blanket

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When you’re out in the wild, safety matters most. That’s where the survival blanket comes in. It’s a small, lightweight wonder that can make a big difference when things don’t go as planned.

In this post, we’ll explore why the survival blanket is a must-have for outdoor enthusiasts. Curious? Keep reading to uncover its secrets and discover why it’s an essential tool for your outdoor adventures.

Key Takeaways

  • Made from reflective Mylar, they are ultra-lightweight emergency tools to retain body heat or reflect sunlight.
  • They are highly effective at bouncing back radiant heat but maximize warmth when big enough to wrap your whole body.
  • Survival blankets shine when paired creatively with gear like bivy sacks, sleeping bags, improvised shelters, and groundsheets.

What is a Survival Blanket?

Survival blanket: SOL Emergency Blanket XL

So, what exactly is this thing called a survival blanket? Imagine a super-thin, shiny blanket that can do wonders to keep you warm or cool. That’s what a survival blanket is all about.

It’s also known as a space blanket or emergency blanket. Here’s why it’s so crucial:

  1. Ultra-Lightweight: They are super light, weighing about 2.5-7oz (70-200g) depending on the model. This means they won’t burden your backpack, especially when you’re on the go. The lightest option that we have found is the World’s Toughest Emergency Blanket at 2.5 oz (70g).
  2. Super Packable: They’re like magic when it comes to saving space. You can fold them up to fit in your palm, making them easy to carry.
  3. Mylar Magic: They are crafted from a material called Mylar, a unique type of polyester film that excels at reflecting heat.

It’s worth noting that there are also sleeping bags, bivys and extra-durable versions of the same material and concept. The following considerations apply to those as well.

The Science Behind Survival Blankets

Survival blankets might seem like they’re from the future, but their origins are pretty down-to-earth, or should we say, out-of-this-world. Here’s the scoop on the science that makes them so incredible:

Space-Age Tech: Survival blankets have an unexpected link to space. In the 1960s, as astronauts ventured into outer space, scientists devised “vacuum metallization” to shield their equipment and themselves from the blazing sun.

Vacuum Metallization is a fancy term that involves coating a non-metal surface (like super-thin polyester film) with a layer of metal, usually aluminum. This shiny aluminum layer is what gives these blankets their superpowers.

So, how does this shiny stuff work? It’s all about reflecting heat. You see, it bounces back those invisible heat rays (called infrared rays) like a mirror. Instead of letting heat in, it keeps it out or, even better, traps it inside.

How Survival Blankets Work in Outdoor Emergencies

So, how does this shiny stuff work? It’s all about reflecting heat. You see, it bounces back those invisible heat rays (called infrared rays) like a mirror. Instead of letting heat in, it keeps it out or, even better, traps it inside.

Let’s talk about how they become your outdoor heroes when things get tough:

  • Cold Dangers: Picture being in the wilderness as temperatures drop, or falling into icy water, making your body lose heat faster than it can generate. This could lead to hypothermia. Your survival blanket wraps around you, trapping and reflecting body heat, keeping you warm.
  • Beating the Heat: Imagine you’re in scorching sun with no shade during a hike. Your blanket can help by reflecting heat when you turn the silver side outward.

Remember, if your blanket has two sides, gold on the outside provides protection against the cold, while silver on the outside provides protection against the heat.

Effectiveness and Limitations of Survival Blankets

Survival Blanket: A hiker on a sunny morning wrapped in a survival blanket

Survival blankets sound pretty amazing, right? Well, they are, but they’re not without a few quirks you should know about:

  • Reflecting Heat: NASA, the space experts, say survival blankets can reflect up to a whopping 90% of your body heat. Plus, they’re waterproof and windproof, which is like having a shield against the elements.
  • Size Matters: Here’s the catch – survival blankets come in different sizes. To get the most warmth, you need one big enough to wrap around your whole body. Smaller ones might not do the trick.
  • Short Shelf Life: These blankets can degrade with time, especially when stored for years in your backpack. It’s wise to check and replace them periodically.

Combining Survival Blankets with Other Gear

Survival blankets, akin to Swiss Army knives for outdoor safety, shine brightest when paired with other gear. Here’s how to maximize their use:

  1. Emergency Bivy Sacks: If you have an emergency bivy sack, consider lining it with your survival blanket. It adds an extra layer of warmth and protection, making it a cozy shelter during cold nights.
  2. Sleeping Bags: While survival blankets aren’t a replacement for a sleeping bag, they can enhance its insulation. Put the blanket inside your sleeping bag to increase warmth on particularly cold nights. It’s worth mentioning that there are now survival blankets on the market designed to be used within sleeping bags.
  3. Groundsheets: Need to keep moisture at bay? Place your blanket on the ground, silver side up, before setting up camp. It’ll act as a barrier between you and damp or cold ground.
  4. Emergency Shelter: In a pinch, you can turn your blanket into an improvised shelter. With a few extra items like sticks or rope, you can fashion a basic tent to keep rain or snow off your back.

Remember, the key to outdoor safety is being resourceful. Survival blankets are versatile tools that can adapt to various situations, so don’t hesitate to get creative with how you use them alongside your other gear.


So, whether you’re braving the wilderness or preparing for unexpected twists, the survival blanket proves its worth as a reliable companion.

Its lightweight design and multifunctional capabilities make it a staple for any outdoor adventure.

Embrace its secrets, pair it wisely with your gear, and let the magic unfold in your journey of exploration and safety.

Looking for an ultralight survival blanket or a bag? Check out our TOP 5 guide for various options.


Are survival blankets reusable?

Certainly, survival blankets are generally reusable as long as they aren’t damaged or torn. Their durability depends on factors like the quality of the blanket and how well it’s cared for. Proper folding and storage can extend their lifespan. However, it’s essential to inspect them regularly for any signs of wear and tear. If they’re in good condition, you can use them multiple times for various outdoor adventures and emergencies.

How long do space blankets last?

The lifespan of a space or survival blanket can vary, but with proper care and minimal use, they can often last for several years, typically ranging from 2 to 5 years or more. Regular inspections for wear and tear are advisable, and long-term storage in a cool, dry place away from UV radiation and moisture can extend their usability. However, it’s important to note that these values are approximate, and actual lifespans may vary depending on factors like the blanket’s quality and exposure to environmental conditions.

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Leading the pack is our editor-in-chief, Alex Jardine – an ultralight evangelist who's hiked over 10,000 trail miles across the globe. He's basically a walking outdoor encyclopedia. This dude loves testing out the latest and greatest products, so you can trust his recommendations are always well-informed and reliable.

We treat all our suggestions like advice from close trail buddies. No fluff, just real insights from folks who live and breathe the outdoor life.

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